Five Questions With Sean McGrath

Sean McGrath serves Brookline Bank as a Vice President in the Commercial Banking Group. He joined Brookline in April 2018. Sean has a background in designing and implementing financing and deposit strategies for insurance carriers and agencies. He is a licensed Massachusetts Property & Casualty Insurance Advisor and Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS) – one of the few commercial bankers in Massachusetts to obtain these designations. Sean gained invaluable insurance experience as a Sales Account Executive at McGrath Insurance Group Inc. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

1. What does Brookline Bank do for local insurance agencies and insurance carriers?
We are very excited about working with the local insurance industry. This is a focus area for Brookline Bank that we are aiming to grow, both on the agent side and carrier side. We provide independent insurance agencies with solutions surrounding acquisition, perpetuation (family buyout or management buyout) and commercial real estate lending. Brookline Bank also provides a full suite of cash management and deposit solutions to assist agents in managing their commission revenue, paying vendors, meeting payroll, and even helping to prevent fraud.

For insurance carriers, we provide deposit solutions, including full access to FDIC insurance on all deposit balances, competitive interest rates, and cash management programs designed to increase an insurer’s efficiency in managing their day-to-day operations.

2. What makes Brookline Bank and you unique in providing banking solutions to companies in the insurance industry?
As the Bank’s lead in this area, I am very familiar with the insurance business as I worked for my father who had an agency in Central Mass. for more than 40 years. I learned a lot from him and I’m one of the few commercial bankers who has worked for a family-owned agency. I understand the hard work it takes to earn a dollar of commission, hire and train staff, and the top-notch role agencies play in managing exposures for their clients. I continue to maintain my property and casualty insurance and adviser licenses, and I received my Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS) designation, which has provided me with a unique perspective and knowledge of the insurance business.

Brookline Bank has deep industry expertise and understands the trends occurring in the overall insurance marketplace. We utilize this knowledge to design a financing program that best suits an agency or when implementing a deposit program for a carrier. If you talk to our clients, they say that Brookline Bank is a great place to bank. Our collaborative culture, supportive management team, and nimbleness stand out in a crowded banking marketplace.

3. Do you see a lot of longtime family-owned businesses being sold or passed down to other family members?
There has been tremendous consolidation in the family-owned insurance agency space. They have become attractive targets by private equity partners and publicly traded brokers given the industry dynamics, including recurring revenue model, industry resiliency in challenging economic conditions, and the strong relationships agencies maintain with their clients. We continue to see longtime family-owned agencies sell to larger companies, but the Bank’s focus is to work with those that want to maintain family ownership. Brookline Bank has the industry knowledge, capabilities, and resources to support their growth or put together a perpetuation financing plan for them.

4. How does the Bank approach underwriting a loan for an insurance agency?
Most banks shy away from lending to insurance agencies given the lack of hard assets such as real estate or machinery and equipment. We work to familiarize ourselves with the agents’ book of business, including the split between personal and commercial lines, carrier mix, customer concentration, etc. We also evaluate the agency’s cash flow and the value of the overall book when evaluating loan requests.

5. How do you work with your insurance clients?
I work with my insurance clients in a variety of ways including in-person meetings or virtual meetings. The basis of a good working relationship with a client is getting to know them and their needs. I am always available to meet my clients at their place of business as I understand that their time is valuable. If they prefer, I can also meet clients at my office in Wakefield, MA. Once we determine the type of services and accounts they need, I help set them up so they can concentrate on running their insurance business.